June 23, 2020
by Megan Teperman
Therapy more than just sessions with your therapist. It is a relationship built on commitment and trust that grows ‘beyond the surface’ – beyond the limitations of non-therapeutic relationships. A client can be ‘committed’ to therapy and come to every session, but without applying what was learned in sessions to life outside of sessions, there will often be limited to no change.
Why? Because a client’s life does not stop when they leave therapy, and vice versa. Once they leave their therapist’s office, their life continues. What was discussed during the session must now be played out ‘in the real world’. A good therapist has the right experience with how to bring up the concept of accountability with a client.
Being able to discuss accountability with a client allows for clear expectations to be determined. “If a client is not committed to therapy, the chances of getting the required results are slim to none” (Douglas, 2019). Change does come from within – as cliche as it sounds, it is true. How do you make someone do something they do not want to do? You cannot. This can be related in an ‘internal switch’, the client has to ‘want to do the work’, essentially placing the control within their grasp, which can be as much terrifying as it can be empowering. The client can consistently attend sessions, but unless they are able or willing to implement those tools to life outside of sessions, they will continue to remain ‘stuck’. Just doing the first half, by coming to sessions and sitting with your therapist, is, unfortunately, not enough. Finding the ‘right fit’ is also important in this equation for commitment.
A common fear seen amongst clients is the fear in the confusion of mixing up ‘acknowledgment’ and ‘acceptance’. Recognizing that oneself is potentially struggling due to symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc., can cause panic and a feeling of being out of control. This feeling arises from realizing that the individual ‘has to do something about it’, which, in turn, intensifies the feeling of panic, unease. “True change requires not only a willingness to commit to new actions, but also the willingness to simply notice your fears without working to get rid of them” (Moran, 2012). Recognizing the reality and the steps needed to enact change are two separate steps. When these two steps are confused for each other, progress will most likely not be enforced. These are difficult steps, but nonetheless necessary to improve upon one’s mental health.